The White House took the unusual step on Wednesday of publicly criticizing Tuesday evening's botched double execution in Oklahoma. The Obama administration said that the proceedings used to kill inmate Clayton Lockett fell short of the humane standards for the U.S.'s administration of capital punishment.
In a statement to reporters, Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the president "believes there are some crimes that are so heinous that the death penalty is merited," and that he believes Lockett's crimes fit that description. However, Carney added, "it's also the case that we have a fundamental standard in this country that even when the death penalty is justified, it must be carried out humanely" Addressing Oklahoma's execution, Carney said that he believes "everyone would recognize that this case fell short of that standard."
Oklahoma's first double execution attempt in decades ended abruptly Tuesday night when the first of the two inmates scheduled to die — Lockett — started "writhing" and "shaking uncontrollably" on the gurney after being administered with an untested dosage of a three-drug cocktail of midazolam, vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. Forty minutes into the attempt, Lockett sat up and said, "something's wrong" to his executioners. He later died. Initial reports indicate that the inmate died of a heart attack, but officials are conducting an autopsy on Wednesday to confirm the cause. The second scheduled execution of the evening was called off.
Of course, inmates sentenced to death are supposed to die when the state carries out the sentence, but not in the way that Lockett did. Oklahoma carried out that sentence despite questions about the experimental dosage used on Lockett, and the state's refusal to reveal from where they obtained the drugs. After a complicated battle between the state's courts and Oklahoma's governor over those objections the state scheduled Lockett and Charles Warner's executions for last night, back-to-back.
Update: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin read a statement on Wednesday about last night's execution of Lockett. "Last night the state of Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett," Fallin said, going on to describe his horrific crimes. "He had his day in court," Fallin added, and that she "believe[s] the legal process worked"
"However, I also believe the state needs to be certain of its protocols and procedures" for executions, she said, "and that they work." Fallin announced that the state's Dept. of Public Safety will conduct an independent investigation into the state's execution proceedings in light of last night's botched lethal injections. The execution of the inmate scheduled to die after Lockett last night, Charles Warner, is stayed until May 13, pending the conclusion of the investigation. If the investigation isn't wrapped up by then, Warner will receive another stay.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.